Hei zhong guo, literally “black China”, is a term commonly used by Chinese netizens to describe the actions of foreigners who – they believe – are unfairly criticising the mainland. The term implies the foreigner has some sort of ulterior motive for what they say.
What seems to be lost on netizens is the irony of their words. By attacking those willing to start a discussion about Chinese society, they are not addressing or fixing the actual flaws within it. This hypocrisy is best seen when discussing scams on the mainland.
My fellow foreigner friend and I were nearly scammed as soon as we had set foot on the mainland. Upon crossing the border at Lok Ma Chau into Shenzhen, we were approached by a woman who told us in English that she could hire a cheap taxi for us.
We agreed, and she led us to an unmarked black car. It was at this point that my friend began to feel uneasy and tried to back out – but by that time, our luggage had been stowed in the boot, and the driver was pushing us to get in the car. We did, and my friend did a quick search online on his phone, and figured out we had fallen for: the black taxi scam.
Scammers lure foreigners into riding in an unregistered taxi, which results in the passengers being charged a sky-high fee or being driven away from their destination and told they have to pay more to go to where they actually want to go. Sometimes, the driver takes off with the passenger’s belongings.
Once we realised what was happening, we made a huge scene. We screamed at the driver, pounded on the windows, and threatened to call the police. All of this resulted in the agitated driver assuring us that we were indeed headed in the right direction. Ultimately, we only paid a little more than what we should have for the trip.
My friend and I were lucky, but countless others end up falling victim to the scammers. And the worst part about this whole thing is that the local police know about it but don’t do anything. I reported our ordeal to the police, but I was given the runaround, and no action was taken. Many others report the same treatment, and tell their friends back home about their experiences. Is this the kind of image mainlanders want others to have of their nation?
If Chinese netizens were truly concerned about the reputation of their country, then they could at least publicly shame the scammers. Instead, they castigate foreigners offering even the mildest of criticism.
Instead of turning their rage against scamming victims, maybe netizens ought to realise that improving China’s reputation will only happen when the problems are addressed. Scamming does more damage to the image of China than any number of opinion pieces and cultural critiques ever could.